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Favorite dishes of 2011


My 10 favorite dishes of 2011 (ok, really nine favorite dishes, and one cocktail):

Clockwise: tater tot nachos, banana dream pie, second course at Nanzan Giro Giro, haupia semifreddo.

1. Fennel panna cotta with fennel marmalade and coffee salt at Prima: savory and surprising.

2. Grilled goat cheese pound cake with black pepper ice cream at Nobu: the tingle of pepper tempered with dense cake, topped with foamed macadamia nut liqueur make for a delightful mouthful.

3. Salumi board at town: Town has been playing with charcuterie for some years now; its execution of salted meat parts is now consistently fantastic.

4. Agony and the Ecstasy at The Edition: (born in The Edition, maybe they'll make it for you at The Modern) mescal, grapefruit, ginger beer and a touch of chipotle Tabasco make for a smoky, spicy cocktail.

5. Hu tieu at The Pig and the Lady: pho's loaded cousin with shrimp, crispy pork fat, rice noodle in a chicken broth fortified with dried shrimp. When you're around the same food everyday (as I was when I was a partner in The Pig and the Lady), that food is the last thing you want to eat—unless it was this soul-warming, deeply-satisfying bowl of noodles.

6. Yose dofu (tofu prepared tableside) at Morimoto: there are fancier, more whimsical dishes at Morimoto, but the simplicity of this tofu that firms up tableside is smoothly, silkily captivating.

7. Tater tot nachos at Home Bar and Grill: every part of my whole food/Michael Pollan sensibilities screams out against this, and yet, I always order it, and the last time we went, we demolished two orders.

8. Second course at Nanzan Giro Giro: tiny broiled smelt, corn jello, fish bones cracker. Those salty sweet fish bones were addictive and the whole dish (all two bites of it) a highlight of Nanzan's elaborate kaiseki dinner.

9. Haupia semifreddo at Morimoto: an coconut ice cream sandwich, gussied up with crisp matcha wafers, fluffy clouds of green tea sponge cake and coconut gelee.

10. Tasting menu at Sushi ii: ok, cheating a little, as this was three dishes, starting with pulled pork and paiai on fine, crisp limu; steak with curried kabocha chips and tart lilikoi; banana dream pie with layers of cream, chocolate and delicate puff pastry.

Runners up: Angostura collins at Bar&D, strawberry milkshake at Village Burger in Waimea (when's the last time you had a milkshake made with fresh strawberries?!), Jin Din Rou's soup dumplings when they first opened, Thai basil panna cotta with grapefruit granita and coconut sorbet at Hoku's.

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